Day of Despair

Oliveira returns to the life and work of nineteenth-century novelist Camilo Castelo Branco (who wrote Doomed Love and inspired Francisca) with this dramatization of his last days. Often compared to Balzac and Cervantes, Branco is considered one of Portugal's most important writers, a mix of pessimist, genius, and womanizer whose tragic, unexplained death Oliveira can only hint at here. Based on Branco's eloquent private letters, Day of Despair chronicles the author's fears, lamentations, and loves (his affair with a devoted mistress scandalized Portugal) as he slowly, inexorably goes blind. Oliveira is far too close to his subject to offer up a traditional biography; using cinema to simultaneously excavate and exhilarate, it's as if he's still searching for clues in the author's text, and still discovering countless riches there. Furthering the film's cobwebbed, dreamlike aura is an expressive voiceover drawing from Branco's writings, set to the soaring strains of Wagner's Parsifal and Tristan und Isolde.

This page may by only partially complete. For additional information about this film, view the original entry on our archived site.